#5: Why Relationships are the Most Important Marketing in Health Tech with Scott Collins

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When it comes to marketing and PR, Scott Collins has seen it all.

His experience in corporate roles as well as senior agency roles in tech and networking companies has given him great success in the industry.

In 2003 he joined Aria Marketing, then a new PR practice, which began his fascination with health tech.

With over 25 years of experience in health and technology marketing, he shares fresh insights about PR, marketing strategy, positioning and thought leadership.

Scott’s journey into HIT marketing

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Scott grew up in a marketing family. His dad worked for Procter & Gamble in their marketing department. But Scott took an unconventional route into PR. After graduating from college with a degree in English, he discovered that he had very little practical knowledge. (Same experience from another English major over here.)

He spent some time as an addiction counselor for struggling teenagers before deciding to get another degree. While attending Emerson College, a marketing professor sold him on the value of marketing. It appealed to his creative side and his English background.

During his first few years in high tech, he witnessed the PC boom and the emergence of the internet. From snail mail to email to social media, he’s seen a lot of changes in the tech world.

But his real introduction to health tech was when he took a job at Aria Marketing. The more he learned about it, the more he fell in love.

For him health tech is so interconnected with people that you feel like you’re making a difference, rather than just working a job. While helping the country understand healthcare, you’re also helping people get better health outcomes.

It’s a Small World

In hindsight Scott wishes he would’ve known how small the health tech community is. You can’t afford to burn bridges since everyone is so closely interconnected.

For instance, hospital CEOs are connected to the movers and shakers in health insurance and vice versa.

Since your interactions with one person directly impact your future in the industry, value each of these relationship and handle them with care.

Networking in HIT

Because the health IT community is so small, networking is super important. You have to connect yourself to the people who have been in healthcare for a while if you want to thrive.

Though the playing field is a little smaller in this industry than others, networking isn’t much different. You’re still going to attend events and follow the news. But what you really need to do is figure out who the key players are in this niche industry.

In your network you need someone who can be a mentor. Someone who has been in the industry for a long time and who can guide you through the do’s and don’t’s in the industry.

Getting the word out

Yes, it’s true that 90% of business comes from people who recommend a product to someone else. But in the healthcare industry it’s also about innovative ideas.

As a whole, the industry tends to gravitate toward ideas that have value, significance, and importance for their company. If you want good word of mouth, then you need good ideas. And good ideas in healthcare tech typically answer these types of questions:

  • What problem needs to be solved?

  • What pain needs to be resolved?

  • What opportunity are you missing?

Focus on solid ideas and you have a great basis for good word of mouth.

How to frame your ideas

Scott noted that every year there is a new emphasis in health IT. For instance, this year is the year of AI. Last year was precision medicine. The year before that population health. You get the idea. Every year has a new hype.

These buzzwords aren’t all bad, but if you create your ideas based on a buzzword, they’ll soon be outdated. BUT if you have innovative ideas and then make them relevant to the current hype, you have a recipe for success.

What is PR, really?

Public relations is the process of figuring out how you want to be known in the market. The best way to craft this messaging is through earned opportunities such as articles or interviews that are published by a third party.

The value of earned opportunities is that you get to ride on the coattails of the third party’s credibility. You automatically add to your reputation. Unearned opportunities like advertising are useful, too, but won’t give you the same credibility of earned opportunities.

Earned opportunities come down to building relationships with people who can get your message out there. Journalists or analysts can communicate your message with credibility. The key is to build a relationship where they will think of you when they cover a story in your field.

Do press releases still work?

Press releases are one example of earned opportunities. Successful press releases package up the facts while making it all about your marketing speak. The trick is to relevantly inform the market you’re trying to reach. It can’t be all about you.

That being said, press releases are difficult to craft because every press release has several different audiences you could gear it towards. You could communicate with journalists, prospects, employees, investors, and the list goes on.

So while press releases often get a bad rap, well crafted press releases are a work of art - saying just what needs to be said to those who need to know.

Lean strategies for PR

Say you’re a new start up with very little time to devote to PR, what should you do? Scott says the best thing you can do is make a list of the top five publications that really matter to you in your field.

Not sure what publications matter? Start from your customer’s perspective. Where are they getting their information? Where do they learn about new ideas? Once you determine the publications that matter most to you, search for the right person to build a relationship with.

Scott cautions that in searching for good sources it’s probably not best to go directly to The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. Sure, they’ll have the top journalist in your field, but you probably won’t be heard. Instead, focus on publications that have their specific to your niche, even if they have a smaller audience.

Time is a key factor here - you probably won’t get an interview or mention immediately. But down the road, when you work to build real relationships with journalists, you will be the first person they think of.

Your actionable takeaway

Scott gave me one basic PR tactic as a takeaway- media kits. Publications post media kits on their website giving information to anyone interested in advertising with them. Most include an editorial calendar with lists of topics for each issue.

Leverage these topics to your advantage by looking up the media kits of your top 5 publications. Scan through their topics for the year. If you notice a relevant topic, call them up and let them know you’re involved in that area of interest. It’s a great way to build awareness and connect with journalists.

Scott’s Must Read Book

Scott recommends Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype. In this book Jay Baer reveals how to do content marketing through PR. It’ll teach you how to promote content that is super useful to your target audience giving you the results that count.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Want to connect with Scott? Find him here:

Twitter - @sscottcollins

Aria Marketing on Twitter - @ariamarketing

Aria Marketing Website

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